What does it mean to be “The Man On Fire?” Well, Earl St. Clair could tell you what that’s like on any given day.
Growing up in between Alabama and Cleveland, St. Clair was raised on the roots of B.B. King, Sam Cooke, James Brown and many more blues artists. A man whose musical upbringing helped him become the iconic artist he is today.
“The music in Alabama was a lot of booty shake music,” St. Clair said. “A lot of it is that, but in the country, you get the blues, the soul, you get the funk, the Earth Wind and Fire, the Al Green, the James Brown, Sam Cooke, BB King. You have all of that playing in the country, and radio was a little bit of southern, but for the most part, it was booty shake. It was a little different, but it was a great different because it gave me a different color to paint with. It gave me a different color I could use when I create.”
St. Clair recalls his first memory of music was listening to LL Cool J’s 1987 hip-hop, rap megahit, “I’m Bad.”
He says, ‘Eat Cool J cookies, I’m bad,’” St. Clair said. “My nickname as a kid was EJ because my real name is Earl Johnson. My mom was always saying, “He’s talking about you, EJ!” “Eat Cool J cookies, so I always thought that was my song.”
Not only did St. Clair have musical inspirations growing up, but his uncles, grandfather and mother helped shape his future as a singer-songwriter and producer. His grandfather gave him the tools he needed to become a producer, such as KRK 6 speakers, cords and headphones. His uncles were always there to share their wisdom and knowledge on how to live a fulfilling life – and his parents were always there to stand him back on his feet whenever he fell down.
“My mom also always supported me, St. Clair said.” "On this journey of becoming a musician and where we are right now, it was a lot of broke nights, a lot of hungry nights, a lot of, ‘OK, whose couch am I going to sleep on tonight nights.’ There was a lot of those, so anytime it got to the where I might need some help, my mom was always there to help me out all the way from Alabama. My dad kept me grindin’, and he kept a very stable head on my shoulder. I think all of that makes me who I am.”
To further his artistry, St. Clair made the big move from Cleveland and Alabama to Los Angeles. Because he always had a mix of city and south, St. Clair already had a unique, soulful, bluesy sound to bring to the LA music scene.
“As an artist, I swing for the fences every time on a record, I honestly do, because I really don’t think there’s a reason not to," St. Clair said. "Being in LA, it gives me a mindset of, ‘OK, you have to make records that are going to chart that people want to hear. Being from Cleveland and Alabama, you have to say something in your music that people can hear, that people can feel, and that they can resonate with it. I keep an even mixture of the realness with the music, and the feel good with the music.”
St. Clair’s first love was producing, but as time passed, experience collected and artistry grew, he began singing.
“I cheated on producing with singing, and now I’m kind of in a relationship with singing," St. Clair said jokingly. "And I still mess with producing on the side.”
St. Clair began singing songs because he needed words on his beats. With no access to writers and with a clear vision of what he wanted the song to sound like, he was inspired to sing it himself.
“The beats went from who I was trying to make them sound like, to sounding like me," St. Clair said. "I started making records that no one else was able to sing and I didn’t know what to do with. People were trying to convince me to be an artist, then certain events in my life made me take that left turn.”
That left turn opened doors for amazing collaborations with people like Rick Ross, Machine Gun Kelly, Bibi Bourelly, Mary J. Blige and Avicii. He talks about his mom always listening to Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411? album, and the honor he felt being able to work alongside her. “I checked off some boxes on my to-do list,” St. Clair said.
He experiments with all different genres of music, such as rock, blues, rap and EDM. “I alway try everything one time,” St. Clair said.
When it comes to his music, he never lets anything hold him back, and he's never afraid to think outside of the box.
"There is nothing I am afraid to try," St. Clair said. "I’ll try it one time and if it works for me I will continue, but if not I’m not going to do it.”
One thing this St. Clair really stresses is his life motto: "Be original, be yourself."
“In today’s time, it’s so hard to be yourself because there are so many things distracting you from doing so," St. Clair said. "Being myself constantly allows me to go in the studio and make music about how I feel. By being yourself it makes everything easier because you don’t have to try.”
As an up-and-coming artist, St. Clair is still awaiting the release of his debut album, Songs About a Girl I Used to Know.
“The inspiration comes from the relationship between the mother of my child and myself," St. Clair mentioned. "It’s from 2009-2011 that I used to write my songs about a girl that I used to know because she’s not that person anymore. It [the album] is all about the money problems I had while trying to take care of my child, the problem I had when trying to be with her and my child, the problems I had in my personal life trying to be successful, as well as picking up new habits to deal with the stress.”
St. Clair sums it all up by telling us that the moral of the story is not about what changes, but how you change it and how you deal with it. St. Clair's deep, personal stories that are placed in with his raspy, soulful voice make for a captivating combination that leaves an impression with all of his fans.
Earl St. Clair, is one to keep on your radar in the next couple of years. He is the authentic, inventive, fresh artist the music industry needs right now.
So, in five to 10 years from now, what legacy will "The Man On Fire" leave behind?
“I want to be known as an inspiring figure," St. Clair said. "I want my music to inspire people to invent and share. To know that they can do better and be better.”
Be sure to check out his new single, “Man on Fire,” as well as his debut album coming soon.
Thanks, Earl, for letting us take a peek into your life, mind, soul and music!